In my first game with Space Empires 3, I gave myself 3 good planets, set the
computer opponents on easy and gave them each only one bad starting planet (I
don't like to lose). Well, I lost anyway, which probably qualifies me better
than most to write about the perhaps not-so-obvious ways to stay alive in this
game. So here are a few hints that I had to learn by having my face rubbed in
the doodoo. Use them well and you might even win your first game (I highly
recommend using a setup similar to mine to learn the ropes, but don't play as
I did). Start on a medium or large universe with opponents spread out: having
a hostile neighbor on move one does not lead to an easy game. And it is easier
if you choose to have few warp lines between planets, which will ensure that
you don't meet other races early on.
The most important rule is that when you start, the most important thing to do
is COLONIZE. Why? Becaue resources come from population, and planets have
population limits. If one of your opponents catches up to you in population,
kiss your ass goodbye. Of course to do that, you will need to explore. And
since you can only colonize one type of planet which, as luck would have it,
is relatively rare in your corner of the galaxy, you will need to research
colonization of other types of planets. Research the type of planets that are
near your starting planet, then research some others later. Look for good or
excellent planets. If you do this right, you should be able to maintain a
factor of five to ten in population and research over each opponent, which
should allow you to make as many stupid mistakes as you want without losing
(but if you see one opponent inching up to within a factor of two of your
population, expect trouble in the near future).
Given the above paragraph, the first ships that you should build are scouts,
colony ships and transport ships. Don't bother arming or shielding scouts
early in the game: their most important property is how fast they can explore,
and they won't meet any enemies early on anyway. And even if they do, scouts
are cheap, and you can build a couple more at any time.
Here is the second most important tip: when you colonize a new planet, set the
production rate as low as it will go (60%). This will jack up the population
growth by a factor of two or three. And rapidly increase the population by
using transport ships to bring in population from other planets.Build some
transport ships with the biggest population capabiilty that you can. Again,
don't bother arming such ships. You should be able to build a transport with
48 million capacity right off the bat. If you add armor, shields and speed,
you will be limited to 2 or 5 million. Go for the 48 million.
You will soon need bigger ships, so you should research ships early on and
during most of the game. A good start is to research two kinds of
colonization, ships, propulsion and beam weapons, at 20% each. Adjust later as
As you put a higher percentage of research money in a given field, the
effectiveness decreases rapidly after about 20%. So never set your percentage
above 20% unless you have a good reason, since you are not using your
resources at their most effective level.
Don't forget to set your construction on each planet as soon as you get it.
The most important subject at the beginning is construction, then research,
then espionnage. The latter is useless until you have met other races, and the
points are lost if they are not used during the turn. However, you should put
as many points as you can afford into condition improvement and value
improvement. And when you can afford population control facilities, put them
in and jack up production to 140% (without such facilities, this will lead to
When you meet enemies, don't assume that they are enemies and attack them
immediately: this will ensure that you will soon have all the races at war
with you. try to establish trade relations.
If you are about to crush an opponent and he offers a treaty, think twice
before you accept, and maybe cripple him before making a treaty. In my first
game, when I finally made it to the main system of one opponent and was about
to crush him, he offered a treaty which I accepted. I then moved most of my
forces towards the other end of the galaxy where I was at war with another
opponent. The first opponent then stabbed me in the back and moved in to my
almost unprotected backfield, and destroyed some of my best planets before I
could get some forces there. Before long, the first opponent had surpassed me
in production, was fielding invulnerable ships and I was up the crick without
The genius of this game is that everything is slow. It takes many turns to
build a ship or to move long distances. And ships run out of fuel. This means
that the "tank rush" is not a feasible strategy in this game for the simple
reason that your forces are unable to reach the heart of enemy territory
before they run out of fuel and have to come back. So you will find that most
of your forces are shuffling between refuling and reaching enemy territory and
are not available for combat in enemy terrotory. It will be very late into the
game before you have ships that have eternal fuel, so be resigned to having
ships with short legs in big galaxies.
OK, you say, how about if I build an outpost in or near enemy territory and
then use it to refuel? Well, that's fine if you can get it, but take it from
me, to achieve that you're going to have the enemy not reacting to your taking
over a planet in his territory - don't count on it.You should, however build
an outpost as close to enemy territory as you can. Fortunately right at the
start you can build a space station that will make your planet invulnerable
for a while, but that will take about ten or more moves...Also you should note
that although you can build yard ships fairly early on that you can use for
repair way out there,, you can not use them to refuel ships, which requires
planets.To make things more difficult, many systems don't have any planets at
all, which makes building outposts even more complicated or even impossible.
Gettoing an outpost two or three planets away from your system in the
direction of enemy planets should be a high priority.But be forwarned that the
closer it is to the enemy, the harder it will be to build it and to hold it.
But if you can build such an outpost at a critical node, you may have given
yourself a decisive advantage.
Shields are more important than firepower. A couple of level V shields and a
shield regenerator can make a ship invulnerable against most weapons of that
level or more.